By leading the SEC in scoring and ranking second in rebounding, senior forward Yante Maten has done everything in his power to try to keep Georgia in the SEC title hunt.
To this point, though, the Bulldogs have been unable to get others to step up to support their best player.
Keeping the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Maten in check will be one of the top priorities for Florida when it plays at Georgia tonight.
Last season, Maten averaged 17 points and three rebounds in two meetings against the Gators. As one of three preseason co-SEC players of the year this season, Maten has lived up to expectations, averaging 19.6 points and 9.2 rebounds while posting nine double-doubles in 20 games.
“He’s a terrific player,” Florida coach Mike White said. “They’ve done a wonderful job with him. His development has been off the charts, consistent development over four years. He’s not only scoring it and rebounding it — those are the things that really jump out — but the way he leads and the intensity level he plays with, the confidence level he plays with and then defensively, he’s terrific as well.”
The burden will fall on junior center Kevarrius Hayes and redshirt sophomore forward Keith Stone to try to keep Maten in check inside. Sophomore center Gorjok Gak and redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett will provide additional support off the bench.
“He’s definitely a load in the post and very skilled,” Hayes said. “We’re probably gonna try to limit his post touches, keep him as far out as possible, try not to let him catch it so deep.”
The Gators have at times double-teamed the post, which has left them vulnerable defending the 3-point line. White said the Gators will pick their spots when it comes to double-teaming Maten. Sometimes, White said, the Gators are still not rotating properly out of double teams or are doubling players when they aren’t supposed to be doubling them.
“Our communication has gotten better, but it’s still lacking at times,” White said.
Despite Maten’s production and post presence, Georgia has still struggled offensively this season, ranking last in the SEC in scoring (69.3 ppg), 12th in field goal percentage (.430) and 13th in 3-point field goal percentage (.316). The Bulldogs lack a proven perimeter scorer, which departed senior point guard JJ Frazier provided for them last season.
Defensively, though, Georgia has been strong this season, ranking third in the SEC in scoring defense (66.1 ppg allowed) and first in field goal percentage defense (.387).
“Whether it’s zone or man (defense), they’re really sound,” White said. “They’re really strong. They’re tough. They all move their feet really well. I’d like to know exactly what they do every day because I think they’re terrific. We have a lot of respect for their program. They guard as well as anybody.”
Florida, which dropped to No. 23 in this week’s AP poll, will be looking to avoid another letdown performance after knocking off Baylor 81-60 on Saturday in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. Last week, Florida followed up a 66-64 upset win over Kentucky at Rupp Arena with a 77-72 loss at home to South Carolina.
“We can’t be feeling good about ourselves right now,” White said. “We’ve got to go up there with an edge, a certain level of fear and anxiety that if we don’t play really well we’re not going to have a chance. I think that edge with this team starts on the defensive end …
“Offensively, we are who we are. I think we’ll go up there and play with some poise and we’ll share and move. The question is can we defend Georgia and can we rebound with Georgia?”
Who: No. 23 Florida Gators (15-6, 6-2 SEC) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (12-8, 3-5 SEC)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850
FLORIDA PROBABLE STARTERS
G KeVaughn Allen;6-2;Jr.;11.4 ppg; 2.3 rpg
G Chris Chiozza;6-0; Sr.;12.6 ppg;6.3 apg
G Egor Koulechov;6-5; GSr.;14.5 ppg;7.2 rpg
F Keith Stone;6-8; RSo.;8.1 ppg;3.7 rpg
C Kevarrius Hayes;6-9; Jr.;5.4 ppg;5.5 rpg
GEORGIA PROBABLE STARTERS
G Juwan Parker; 6-4;Sr.;8.4 ppg;3.5 rpg
G William Jackson III;6-4;Jr.;9.5 ppg;3.7 apg
F Rayshaun Hammonds;6-8;Fr.;6.6 ppg;5.1 rpg
F Derek Ogbeide;6-8;Jr.;7.4 ppg;5.9 rpg
F Yante Maten;6-8;Sr.;19.6 ppg;9.2 rpg
Notes: Florida is 113-100 all-time against Georgia, a series that dates back to 1923-24. The Gators are 4-0 against the Bulldogs under Mike White. UF has won seven of the last eight meetings between the two schools. …. Florida is 3-1 in true road games this season and 6-3 in games away from the O’Connell Center. “When we are on the road, it’s more of we have each other,” Florida junior center Kevarrius Hayes said. “We have to depend on each other, each other’s energy and all of us to play well.” …. Hayes ranks fourth in the SEC in blocked shots at 2.3 per game. The Gators are 4-0 when Hayes blocks four or more shots in a game. … Florida leads the SEC in turnover margin (plus-4.5) while ranking second in 3-pointers per game (9.7). … Florida graduate transfer guard Egor Koulechov leads the SEC in free throw percentage at 91.8 percent. Koulechov also has a seven-game string of grabbing 8 or more rebounds, matching a mark last set by Joakim Noah from March 10-31, 2007. … Florida senior point guard Chris Chiozza has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 71-12 over his last 11 games. … Florida junior guard Jalen Hudson ranks fifth in the SEC in scoring at 16.5 ppg and has scored in double figures in eight straight games. Hudson has been UF’s most consistent scorer, reaching double figures in 19 of 21 games this season. … Georgia is looking to snap a three-game losing streak. … The Bulldogs are 8-2 at home this season, having posted wins over Alabama, Ole Miss, Temple and Georgia Tech. … The game will be a homecoming of sorts for Florida freshman guard Deaundrae Ballard, an Atlanta native who went to Southwest Christian High School. Ballard is averaging 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds off the bench for the Gators this season.
— Kevin Brockway